The biggest decision for this week's blog was which picture to use as the cover photo. Should it be the Dordogne River, which flows through Perigord? Should it be a chateau/fort, representing the tumultuous wars during the Middle Ages? Should it be a charming city, with pointed roofs & beautiful flowers? Or maybe a flock of geese, representing the ubiquitious "foie gras", on every single menu we saw? Or maybe pre-historic cave drawings, reflecting the importance of the "Valley of Man"'s contribution to prehistoric art?
Pretty Perennial Perigord: (see picture album with same name)
In the end, I chose the river! The Dordogne flows through"Perigord", a department of France that features the Dordogne River, & whose name is synonymous with the name Perigord. And a river flows, as does time...(as we all know as we head into another fall)!
Perigord's many caves, featuring prehistoric art dating back 30,000 years, as well as its medieval chateaux & forts, hint at this slow & steady tick-tock of time. That's why I chose "Pretty Perennial Perigord" as the title of our picture album featuring the overall charm & culture of this amazingly beautiful area. Check it out for images of Sarlat, the geese, food choices, a Templar graffiti tower, a chateau with a ghost, & a chateau/fort displaying every medieval weapon imaginable, as well as a beautiful VIEW!
Lascaux IV: Prehistoric Art (check out this photo album!)
There is so much to do in Perigord! We started with cave art on Friday, 8/11/17, at Lascaux IV: The International Center for Prehistoric Art". Wow!
Why IV? The first Lascaux, discovered by a boy, following his dog who fell through a hole in 1940, was closed in 1963, after being on the brink of extinction due to the breath of thousands of visitors. The second was a reproduction, but it too suffered from too many hot breathers, & it had to shut down. Lascaux III is a traveling exhibit, right now in Asia. This time, with Lascaux IV, they got it all right. We were blown away.
1. First of all, they figured out how to process visitors (2500-3000 a day in summer) in steps, with groups of 35 every 6 minutes. (And, unlike most French things, they do honor the time!) Our 2:42 pm tickets let us into the first part, an hour long tour, complete with tablets & headphones, through the reproduction of Lascaux I. It smells like a cave, it's cold like a cave, & as you walk through it, the tour guide interprets what you see through the earphones. You understand the incredible images you are seeing. No photography allowed; that came in part 2, where you could use your tablet as a camera. (I just got an email asking if I wanted to see the pics I'd taken--I used my phone instead.)
2. Part 2 was the "Workshop", where they had recreated what we'd just seen, in smaller bites. This time we were on our own, with tablets. You entered a space, & a screen appeared, where you could tap on whatever you wanted to explore. Sometimes it was history related, sometimes art related, sometimes how they created the images, sometimes how they restored them, etc. This was an ingenious way to get every person there INTO whatever interested them about cave art. Of course, children were much more adept than adults with the tablets, & buzzed through like pros. There were also big screens where people could try their hand at creating their own art.
3. Remember when you first heard about "Neanderthals"? You may have thought they were really almost human, but with small undeveloped brains. Part 3 was also very clever! Using three different video/diaramas, they explained the history of how people felt about prehistoric people, starting in about 1880 & running through to the present. The underlying theme was that prehistoric man was NOT an ape. They had brains & bodies as well developed as ours, they just lived in a different time. It concluded with a scenario showing how new technology provides scientists with all kinds of new data. Once again, this was aimed at, & interesting to, all ages.
4. Who doesn't like a 3-D movie? Part 4 showed what the Lascaux site was like in the ice Age & flowed through time until the discovery of Lascaux, this time using all kinds of images, playing with your imagination in a very creative way. By this time, we'd been there 4 hours!
All in all, we came out of there knowing much more about "cave men", & what their lives were like. And it set us up for the remaining days of our Perigord adventure.
Josephine Baker & her "Rainbow Family" (don't miss these pics!)
Les Milandes is the name of a beautiful chateau owned by Josephine Baker from 1947 until 1963. Her chateau may be beautiful, but her story is heartbreaking! Born in 1906 in St. Louis to an unwed mother, all she really wanted to do was dance. Starting in Missouri, then on to NYC, she pursued that dream, but only became successful after her role in "La Revue Negre" in Paris. The French adored her, & she achieved great fame, happiness & financial success, for a while.
Along her life's path, she had a total of 4 husbands: 2 Americans (one marriage at 13, another at 15), & 2 French. She suffered from stomach issues, requiring a number of surgeries, & was unable to have children.
Les Milandes tells her story well, & very personally. You start in a room that displays many of her costumes, including the famous "banana skirt". As you tour through the house, there are many picures & objects that continue her story in France, including a section on her part in the Resistance during WWII. She received the "Croix de Guerre" as well as the "Legion d'Honneur" for her work as as spy as well as a pilot.
But it was her "Rainbow Family" that really grabbed me. While married to husband 4, Jo Bouillon, JB adopted 12 children, orphans from all over the world. She brought them up at Les Melindes, sending them to the village school. She insisted on them keeping the religions into which they were born. The pictures show a woman totally dedicated to creating a real family for these 12 children.
But her devotion to family life, & poor management of finances, created an acute financial crises. Her husband, frustrated by JB's inability to face the situation, eventually left, & she continued on her own. Eventually her chateau had to be sold at auction. The picture of her sitting on the steps at the door, locked out, is devastating. She did get help from Brigitte Bardot & Princess Grace of Monaco, friends from earlier, happier days. Moving to Monaco, with her children in Paris without her, she tried to make a comeback, but died of a cerebral hemorrage in NYC after a performance.
How About Living in a... Cliff?
Pull up our cliff album to see what it was like for prehistoric man, as well as medieval man, to live in a cliff. These 2 cliff/caves, within 5 mintues of each other, featured prehistoric life patterns as well as medieval ones. One was big into the mechanicals of cliff life, the other had a huge display of medieval torture!
The Hanging Gardens of Marqueyssac:
This is no ordinary garden! It's a cliff garden, filled with boxwoods, partly formally sculpted, partly wild. There are 3 walks: The Cliff Walk (of course!), th High Walk (of course!), & what I call "The Magic Walk". We so enjoyed watching children at this half park/half garden, on the estate of a 19th century chateau, complete with cafe & a peacock! See our album to walk through this unusual garden.
A book recommendation:
If you are intrigued by Perigord (aka Dordogne) & want to read a good book that will give you a little history, a little culture (food/wine), a great mystery involving archeological digs, a murder, & a love story, we have a recommendation: "The Crowded Grave", by Martin Walker. Les downloaded the audio book, & listening to it while we drove to, & back from, Perigord was a real pleasure.
We are back "home" again, with one more week to go before we leave Villevieille. We've plans for a concert tonight, 2 art exhibits (one on Sisley, the other on a French cubist, & our final "balade" (nature walk) Sunday morning. We are packing in as much as we can, while we can. Time does flow by, just like the Dordogne River!
Au revoir, & a bientot!
Elise & Les